Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the USDA and the Department of Justice will hold joint public workshops to explore competition issues affecting the agriculture industry and the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in that industry.
It is important to have a fair and competitive marketplace that benefits agriculture, rural economies and American consumers, says Vilsack. “The joint workshops between the Department of Justice and USDA will allow a dialogue on very important issues facing agriculture today.”
The workshops will address the dynamics of competition in agriculture markets including, among other issues, buyer power (also known as monopsony) and vertical integration. They will examine legal doctrines and jurisprudence and current economic learning, and will provide an opportunity for farmers, ranchers, consumer groups, processors, the agribusinesses, and other interested parties to provide examples of potentially anticompetitive conduct. The workshops will also provide an opportunity for discussion for any concerns about the application of the antitrust laws to the agricultural industry.
The first workshop will be held in early 2010. While some of the workshops may be held in Washington, D.C., others will be held regionally. The Department of Justice and USDA are soliciting public comments from lawyers, economists, agribusinesses, consumer groups, academics, agricultural producers, agricultural cooperatives and other interested parties.
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